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Courtesy Adrianne Machina(SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic) -- Authorities in the Dominican Republic have arrested six people in connection with the death of an American teacher who was found dead in her home there last week, authorities said Sunday.

Patricia Anton, a U.S. citizen who lived in the Dominican Republic for the last several years, was found strangled to death last Tuesday in her apartment in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Sunday.

The 63-year-old woman was found with her hands and feet bound together and several items were missing from her home, including a cellphone, laptop and television, police said.

The suspects were identified as Michael Marinez Rosario, Heuri Flores Hernandez, Junior Alexis Suarez, Juan Jose Andujar Mella, Oroniel Canario Montero and Alexis Maquey.

Police are searching for a seventh suspect who goes by the nickname "Eiden" and/or "The Venezuelan." Police said all seven suspects traveled to Puerto Plata with the intention of committing crimes before they fled.

Investigators did not say how they connected the suspects to the woman's death.

Police said four of the men have prior criminal records.

Anton moved to the island around 2013 and began teaching at 3 Mariposas Montessori six years ago, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement last week. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," she added.

Anton's family described her as a loving woman who "was all about kindness and sweetness."

"Her life was so much bigger than her death," her cousin, Adrianne Machina, told ABC News on Thursday. "The Dominican Republic was her happy place. I think her dream was to retire down there. … The Dominican Republic really gave her purpose and peace."

The family said it was working with officials at 3 Mariposas Montessori to erect a "peace park" in Anton's honor.

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iStock(HONG KONG) -- Protests in Hong Kong have intensified with live bullets and explosions as police seek to end the standoff at Polytechnic University.

The police have surrounded the university in what is the one of the largest and most sustained battles in a protest movement that is now in it's sixth month.

An officer was shot through the leg with a bow and arrow and an armored police vehicle was set on fire as protesters fight back police tear gas and rubber bullets with Molotov cocktails.

Police have been trying to disperse the protesters from the roads around Polytechnic, which is the last major university that is occupied by protesters.

Live bullets have been fired towards protesters, but it is unclear how many have been injured in the conflict.

Hundreds of protesters who refused to leave the university are making a last stand inside, anticipating mass arrests.

The demonstrations began in early June when hundreds of thousands of mostly-young people marched against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspected criminals in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland China for trial.

Hong Kong's embattled leader, Carrie Lam, has since withdrawn the bill, but widespread unrest has continued as demonstrators broaden their demands to include a call for direct elections for the city's leaders, amnesty for protesters and an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.

Protesters have four additional demands, calling for: the authorities stop calling the protests ‘riots’; amnesty for arrested protesters; an independent inquiry into police brutality; universal suffrage; the withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Lam, the Hong Kong Chief Executive since 2017, has doubled down, saying that they will not give in to protesters' demands.

There have been lulls in the violence and intensity of the protest movement. But the death of a university student from a fall last week has reignited rage.

The protesters blame police for the student's injury because he fell off a parking garage in the vicinity of a police clearance operation.

The escalation at Polytechnic University began earlier in the week, following a pitched struggle on Monday between police and protesters who had attacked toll booths and blocked the Cross Harbour Tunnel, one of three underwater tunnels in Hong Kong, which emerges on the island right beside the university. Police retaliated with tear gas.

Thousands of students and protesters blocked entrances, torn up brick sidewalks for ammunition, and lined every vantage point with Molotov cocktails. The university's swimming pool, emptied of water, has become a practice firing range. Some walked around with bows and arrows, many blunt training arrows, others sharpened or wrapped in gauze, ready to be lit on fire.

Protesters withdrew to Polytechnic University, a Zaha Hadid-designed building, which normally serves 27,000 students, and started fortifying it.

Polytechnic is one of five major universities being fortified by protesters. Masked protesters with makeshift weapons barricaded themselves inside the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Wednesday after violent clashes with riot police overnight.

Students from mainland China have been evacuated with police help and the university has been closed for the rest of the year.

Hong Kong lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who is a member of the Democratic Party, warned the movement won't stop until the government fulfills protesters' demands.
    
"This will not end," he told ABC News in a brief interview on the street Wednesday. "This will go on forever. That's my view."

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iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Andrew, the third child of Queen Elizabeth, in a high-stakes interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. categorically denied allegations he had sex on multiple occasions with an American teenager who's claimed she was trafficked to the prince at the direction of Jeffrey Epstein.

"I've said consistently and frequently that we never had any sort of sexual contact whatever," the prince said, responding to a question about allegations from Virginia Roberts Giuffre.

Giuffre has claimed in court records and deposition testimony she had sex with the prince on two occasions when she was 17, in London and in New York, and a third time when she was 18, at Epstein's private island estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Epstein, a convicted sex offender, died in prison in August.

Asked by BBC presenter Emily Maitlis about those allegations, the prince replied, "No. All of it. Absolutely no to all of it."

While denying the allegations against him personally, the prince stopped short of saying he regretted his long friendship with Epstein.

"Now, still not," the prince said. "And the reason being is that the people that I met, and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful."

The prince added: "We weren't that close."

The rare interview, broadcast in prime time Saturday in Britain, was the result of a months-long negotiation that ultimately had to be approved by the queen herself before it was recorded earlier in the week, Maitlis said.

For nearly a decade, the prince has been under scrutiny for his association with Epstein, a multi-millionaire financier and the subject of state and federal investigations since the mid-2000s for allegedly recruiting underage girls for illicit massages and sex.

Epstein ultimately avoided federal charges involving allegations of abuse against nearly three dozen girls by agreeing to plead guilty two comparatively minor charges in Florida state court. He served just 13 months of an 18-month term in a county jail.

He was charged again, in July of this year, in a two-count federal indictment for child sex-trafficking and conspiracy for alleged crimes in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. He died in prison on Aug. 10 from an apparent suicide.

Prince Andrew, who said he'd met Epstein in 1999, first became embroiled in the controversy in late 2010 when he was photographed walking with the convicted sex offender through New York's Central Park shortly after Epstein's sentence ended in Florida.

The prince claimed in the BBC interview that the purpose of that visit was to inform Epstein he could no longer be associated with him due to his criminal conduct.

"I felt that doing it over the telephone was the chicken's way of doing it," the prince added. "I had to go and see him and talk to him."

Pressed by Maitlis on why he chose to stay at Epstein's mansion if he was ending the relationship, the prince said he did it out of convenience.

"I mean, I've gone through this in my mind so many times," the prince added. "At the end of the day, with a benefit of all the hindsight that one can have, it was definitely the wrong thing to do. But at the time I felt it was the honorable and right thing to do, and I admit fully that my judgment was probably colored by my tendency to be too honorable. But that's just the way it is."

In December 2014, Giuffre alleged in court filings she had been recruited as a teenager by Epstein's longtime companion, the British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, for a job as a traveling masseuse. She further claimed she'd been directed by Epstein and Maxwell to have sex with Prince Andrew on three occasions. Those allegations were later stricken from the court record by a U.S. federal judge.

Giuffre, now a 35-year-old mother of three living in Australia, subsequently filed a defamation suit against Maxwell, which settled for undisclosed terms in 2017. Her allegations against Prince Andrew eventually resurfaced in the court records of that case. Included in her filings, many of which remained under seal until this summer, was a photograph of Prince Andrew with his arm around Giuffre's waist, while Maxwell smiled in the background. Giuffre contends she was 17 when the photo was taken in 2001, on the second-floor landing of Maxwell's London home, and that she had sex with the prince shortly after the photo was snapped.

In his interview with "Newsnight," however, Prince Andrew said couldn't remember ever meeting Giuffre, and that he had doubts as to the picture's authenticity.

"I don't believe that photograph was taken in the way that has been suggested," he said. "I think it's, from the investigations that we've done, you can't prove whether or not that photograph is faked or not, because it is a photograph of a photograph of a photograph. So it's very difficult to be able to prove it, but I don't remember that photograph ever being taken."

The prince also contended that he had an alibi for the date of the alleged encounter, claiming he was home with his daughter, Beatrice.

"I was at home," the prince said. "I was with the children, and I'd taken Beatrice to a Pizza Express in Woking for a party at, I suppose, sort of 4 or 5 in the afternoon. And then, because the Duchess was away, we have a simple rule in the family that when one is away the other one is there. I was on terminal leave at the time from the Royal Navy so therefore I was at home."

As Maitlis recounted Giuffre's allegations of the night of the alleged sexual encounter in London, in which Giuffre claims she dined, drank and danced with the prince at Tramps nightclub, and that he sweated profusely on the dance floor, the prince seemed to let out a small snicker and said, "It didn't happen."

"I'm convinced that I was never in Tramps with her. There are a number of things that are wrong with that story, one of which is that I don't know where the bar is in Tramps. I don't drink, I don't think I've ever bought a drink in Tramps whenever I was there," he said.

The prince went on to say that, at the time, he had a medical condition that prevented him from sweating.

"There's a slight problem with the sweating because I have a peculiar medical condition which is that I don't sweat, or I didn't sweat at the time," he added. "I didn't sweat at the time because I had suffered what I would describe as an overdose of adrenaline in the Falklands War when I was shot at, and I simply -- it was almost impossible for me to sweat."

Asked by Maitlis if he thought Giuffre, who's also alleged she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell to other prominent men, was lying about their alleged sexual encounters, the prince avoided a direct answer.

"That's a very difficult thing to answer," he said, "because I'm not in a position to know what she's trying to achieve. But I can tell you categorically I don't remember meeting her at all."

All of those accused by Giuffre have denied the allegations.

Before the BBC interview this week, the prince had long avoided being questioned about his relationship with Epstein and the allegations of Giuffre, instead relying on a series of denials issued by Buckingham Palace.

"It is emphatically denied that the Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with her," read a statement from early 2015.

In the interview, the prince acknowledged, over the years, that he'd visited several of Epstein's homes -- in New York, in Palm Beach, Florida, and in the U.S. Virgin Islands -- but contended he'd never observed any behavior by Epstein that alarmed him.

The prince said he was first introduced to Epstein in 1999 by Maxwell, Epstein's girlfriend at the time, whom the prince said he'd known since her days at university. He contended that his friendship with Epstein was never particularly close, but was an inevitable by-product of his relationship with Maxwell.

On one occasion in 2000, he said, Epstein and Maxwell visited Sandringham, the Queen's estate in the British countryside, for what the prince described as "a shooting weekend."

As the interview neared a close, the prince was asked once more by Maitlis if he had any guilt, shame or regret about his friendship with Epstein.

"As far as Mr. Epstein was concerned, it was the wrong decision to go and see him in 2010," the prince replied. "As far as my association with him was concerned, it had some seriously beneficial outcomes in areas that have nothing to do with what I would describe as what we're talking about today. On balance, could I have avoided ever meeting him? Probably not, and that's because of my friendship with Ghislaine.

"Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes."

"Unbecoming?" Maitlis interjected. "He was a sex offender."

"Yeah," the prince said. "I'm sorry, I'm being polite."

After Giuffre first filed her claims in 2014, her attorneys wrote to the prince, seeking to question him about his relationship with Epstein, to no avail. After Epstein's death earlier this year, Brad Edwards and David Boies, her attorneys, renewed their request in another letter, asking Prince Andrew to respond to their questions "in a dignified manner and appropriate setting that would, we believe, clarify the record for everyone's benefit, including your own." It's unknown whether the prince responded to that letter.

"Would you be willing to testify or give a statement under oath, if you were asked?" Maitlis asked the prince.

"Well, I'm like everybody else," he replied. "And I will have to take all the legal advice that there was before I was to do that sort of thing. But if push came to shove, and the legal advice was to do so, then I would be duty-bound to do so."

Outside the final court hearing in Epstein's criminal case in late August, Giuffre vowed to continue to demand answers from the prince, Maxwell and others she claims aided Epstein in facilitating or participating in her alleged abuse.

"I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice," Giuffre said.

As for the prince's denials, she said, "He knows exactly what he's done, and I hope he comes clean about it."

Asked by Maitlis to respond to Giuffre's claim that he knows what he's done, the prince said, "And the answer is, nothing."

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omersukrugoksu/iStock(PARIS) -- French police fired water cannons and tear gas in Paris on Saturday to drive back protesters marking the first anniversary of the anti-government yellow vest demonstrations.

Demonstrators, many clad in black and hiding their faces, vandalized an HSBC bank at the Place d'Italie. They set trash cans on fire and hurled cobblestones and bottles at riot police while building barricades.

Several cars were also set ablaze.

Clashes broke out between demonstrators and police near the Porte de Champerret, close to the Arc de Triomphe, as protesters were preparing to march across the city towards Gare d'Austerlitz. Police also intervened to prevent a few hundred demonstrators from occupying the Paris ring road.

“In the face of thugs who target them, firefighters and police intervene to contain the excesses, put an end to abuses and proceed to arrests,” French National Police said in a translated message. “Peaceful protesters, we guarantee the public peace to allow you to freely express your opinions. Help us: disassociate yourself from violent groups.”

The yellow vest protests, named for the high-visibility jackets worn by demonstrators, erupted in November 2018 over fuel price hikes and the high cost of living. The demonstrations spiraled into a broader movement against French President Emmanuel Macron and his economic reforms.

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Juanmonino/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Kim Eunju escaped North Korea in 2005, disillusioned with the communist regime. She still vividly remembers that night when uniformed officers raided her home in Chongjin, Hamgyeongbuk-do, searching for petroleum that she had been smuggling from China to sell in the local market. It was the family’s lifeline bringing just enough bread to the table to survive.

The country had entered into a severe economic hardship and the communist party had begun to confiscate whatever household goods to support the state. Kim, then 25-years old, also worked as a train stewardess.

“They taught us to sing our socialist nation is the happiest world. But how could we live when they even take away our empty kimchi pot (that is used as family refrigerator)?” Kim told ABC News.

That’s when Kim decided it was time for a challenge. Early next morning, she called a broker to join a group of others crossing the border into China, hoping to find work.

The escape was long and arduous. A border guard, bribed by the brokers, guided the group to cross the Tumen River after midnight. “The current was strong. We held hands supporting each other to cross the river. It took about two to three hours to the Chinese side,” she recalled.

Soaked and dripping, they rode a taxi, stopped at two different locations, then split up. Kim and another woman were ushered into a bus. They rode three full days, then arrived in a rural town in Liaoning, Northeastern China. “I had been sold to a Chinese man,” Kim recalled, her voice still trembling with emotion.

She was forced into an unwanted marriage and gave birth to a daughter in 2006. Kim does not want to recall those days describing them as “so disgraceful.” “Life in China was a nightmare, locked up in the house under threat of deportation,” said Kim.

Two years later she came across another broker sending North Korean refugees to South Korea. “I decided to risk my life for another run with my baby daughter, with a faint hope that life would be better in South Korea.”

Kim successfully defected to the capitalist South in 2009. She had multiple part-time jobs, attended job training programs, and struggled to make ends meet while raising her daughter alone. But life in Seoul, she said, is “still tough” especially as a North Korean defector and a single mother. Defectors see themselves as lower class citizens of South Korea

A total of 33,022 North Koreans have defected to the South as of 2019, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. They defect to gain freedom of choice disdained by the harsh surveillance and control by the communist regime, as well as to escape starvation. But settling into new lifestyles in the capitalist South is tougher than they had imagined.

Defectors find it hard to get a well-paying job, due to the barrier of culture and language. Average monthly wage for North Korean defectors working in the South is $1,636, some 25% below the minimum wage of $2,203 per month. As a result, almost half of the defectors see themselves as part of the lowest socioeconomic status in South Korea, according to a 2018 survey by the Unification Ministry.

Their hardships in adapting to a capitalist economy faced a reality check last July when a North Korean defector mother and her 7-year-old son were found dead in their small, rented apartment. Autopsy results showed both had not eaten for days. Support groups, alarmed, took to the streets calling for immediate need to improve policies that could help and support these vulnerable defectors.

"The mother and son died of starvation in the flourishing democratic Korea. This is nonsensical and heartbreaking," said defector Heo Kwang-il, who led a group of people to organize a public funeral for the unfortunate mother and son in September.

Buried in debt

North Korean defectors inevitably find themselves in challenging economic situations upon their entry into South Korea. There’s also underlying discrimination, lack of knowledge of English and almost all of them have never used the internet before escaping the North. As a result, a huge cultural and economic gap exists between North and South Koreans.

“Upon their entry into South Korea, they become citizens of the most competitive, materialistic, capitalist driven neoliberal society in the entire world,” Dr. Do Jean at Konkuk university who studies trauma care for defectors, told ABC News. “Those Koreans are basically forced to enter a race to adapt and succeed at settling down in South Korea.”

All North Korean defectors are required to go through a 12-week-long social settlement education program in Hanawon, a reeducation center run by the Unification Ministry. There, defectors are prepared to overcome cultural differences, cure their trauma, and discuss which occupation they could take.

Once out in the real world, defectors are given financial aid during the first year, starting from about $6,000 dollars depending on age, health and the city they choose to settle down in. But defectors say, most of that money goes to the brokers who helped them cross the border.



“North Korean defectors begin life in South indebted to brokers,” defector Jeong Youngnam who arrived in Seoul five years ago, told ABC News. “We have to start from scratch once the debt is cleared off, and it’s difficult as a defector to find a well paid job in Seoul.”

Kim, too, took a six-month long job training hoping to work at a hair salon but failed to find work. Instead, she ended up washing dishes at a restaurant. She had much debt to pay back to her broker. “I dreamt of earning big money to buy my daughter food and toys… but no matter how hard I try working around clock, sometimes I can’t even afford to feed my daughter,” she said in disappointment.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a campaign ad for Former Vice President Joe Biden implied Kim Jong Un was a "tyrant," North Korean state media responded on Thursday by blasting the 2020 Democratic candidate.

The commentary called Biden a "rabid dog" and advocated that rabid dogs "can hurt lots of people" and "must be beaten to death with a stick."

"Anyone who dare slanders the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK can never spare the DPRK's merciless punishment," said the commentary, which was translated by North Korea's news agency. Biden "will be made to see even in a grave what horrible consequences will be brought about by his thoughtless utterances. Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick before it is too late."

The ad for Biden said, in part: "We live in the most dangerous moment in a generation. Our world, set on edge by an erratic, unstable president. Dictators and tyrants are praised -- our allies, pushed aside." Kim's photo appears at the mention of the word "tyrants."

The Biden campaign hit back, calling Kim a "repugnant dictator," arguing that sharp words from North Korea highlight the strength of their candidate.

Biden's team also took a thinly veiled shot at President Donald Trump, who's suggested that he and Kim "fell in love" after exchanging written letters.

"It's becoming more and more obvious that repugnant dictators, as well as those who admire and 'love' them, find Joe Biden threatening. That's because he'd restore American leadership in the world on day one by putting our security, interests, and values at the heart of our foreign policy," Andrew Bates, a Biden spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement.

On the trail, Biden often discusses the North Korean leader while criticizing Trump for doing harm to perceptions of the U.S. on the world stage.

"We don't have a foreign policy. We are embracing thugs like Putin and Kim Jong Un. This president's talking about love letters with a butcher," Biden said on Monday, adding, in a clear reference to Kim, "This guy had his uncle's brains blown out sitting across the table, his brother assassinated in an airport. This is a guy who has virtually no social redeeming value."

The former vice president in recent weeks has intensified his messaging of experience on the trail, arguing his four-plus decades of foreign policy credentials set him apart from a growing, rather than shrinking, 2020 Democratic primary field.

"There's going to be no opportunity for on-the-job training," Biden told a crowd in California on Thursday.

Biden's team is pushing the former vice president's foreign policy message against Trump -- especially as the president faces an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

An aide to the Biden campaign told ABC News that effort will include rolling out 133 endorsements for Biden from former national security officials who served across seven administrations.

This is not the first war of words between Biden and North Korea's state media, which has previously called him a "low IQ idiot" and warned that his "candidacy should not carry high expectations." Those remarks came after Biden criticized Kim at a rally in Philadelphia in May.

"No wonder, even the Americans call him '1% Biden' with low I.Q., 'mad Biden,' and 'Biden not awakened from a sleep,'" the news agency said Thursday.

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mammuth/iStock(ROME) -- Italy's government declared a state of emergency on Thursday after floodwaters ravaged Venice, causing inestimable damage to the centuries-old city.

Twenty million euros (approximately $22 million, U.S.) is being set aside in response, reported Italian press agency ANSA.

Venice saw its worst flood in 50 years on Tuesday, close to midnight, after floodwaters reached over 73 inches.

As tourists posted selfies on social media with the flooded streets as backdrop, locals were left to deal with incalculable water damage to their businesses, homes and their city’s world-famous monuments.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte arrived in Venice on Wednesday evening to assess the flooding damage.

Those affected by the flood can apply for 5,000 euros (about $5,500 U.S. dollars) in initial compensation, while business can get up to 20,000 euros (approximately $22,000 in U.S. dollars), the prime minster announced via a Facebook post on Thursday.

Yet angry Venetian residents are demanding to know why such severe flooding even happened.

In 2018, damage to the nearly 1,000-year-old St. Mark’s Basilica, was estimated to cost 2.2 million euros (about $2.4 million, U.S.) to repair.

“The government is sympathetic and [at] present, no one will be alone,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

"Venice is on its knees. The Basilica of Saint Mark has suffered grave damage as has the whole city and the islands," he tweeted.

Flooding in Venice is far from unusual, with parts of the city regularly underwater, especially between fall and spring when bad weather exacerbates the threat already posed by high tides.

The frequency, however, has increased in recent years. In Venice, flooding has increased from about 10 cases in the first half of the 20th century, to over 40 cases in the second half and up to almost 60 cases in the last five years, according to the Mose website, Venice’s flood defense program under the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.

“Extreme events are no longer remote probabilities, but mathematical certainties,” Mose wrote on its website. The cause: a combination of Venice sinking due to soil erosion and depletion of ground water as well as a rise in sea level.

In 1966, following Venice’s worst flood in history, the Italian government asked engineers to draw up flood defense plans. The project began in 2003 and was due to be finished by 2011, but costs and corruption delayed the project.

According to a Facebook post by Italian politican Andrea Zanoni, flooding occured minutes after several officials rejected "amendments to counter climate change."

Meanwhile, the schools in Venice have been closed, and locals have begun cleanup.

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NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had a chance to thank Hillary Clinton for the supportive comments she's made about her recently.

The duchess and the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate had a private meeting Tuesday at Frogmore Cottage, Meghan and Prince Harry's home in Windsor, according to a Buckingham Palace spokesperson.

Although Prince Harry was not at the meeting, Clinton, a grandmother of three, did get to meet Archie, Harry and Meghan's 6-month-old son.

Sara Latham, the Sussexes' press secretary, who previously worked for Clinton, was also at what was described by Buckingham Palace as a "friendly, informal meeting."

Meghan's meeting with the former secretary of state was the first time the two had met. Clinton is currently on a book tour for The Book of Gutsy Women, a book she wrote with her daughter, Chelsea.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Clinton appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live and spoke to host Emma Barnett about Meghan's self-described struggle to live in the spotlight and deal with what she has described as "unfair" treatment by some parts of the British press.

"I feel as a mother I just want to put my arms around her. Oh my God, I want to hug her," said the former first lady and U.S. senator. "I want to tell her to hang in there. Don't let those bad guys get you down. Keep going. Do what you think is right."

"I have a great feeling toward and about her because it's one thing to be told what it will be like when you step onto the biggest stage with the brightest spotlight ... and yet it still is really hard to imagine," Clinton said. "It takes some getting used to, to have your every move scrutinized and analyzed and frankly things made up about."

"And I really wish her and her husband the very best because they are struggling to have a life of meaning and integrity on their own terms," she continued. "And that's hard enough if you're just walking around in today's world, but if you're on that big a platform, it's really difficult."

Clinton said she doesn't think "there's any doubt" Meghan's race and gender have played a role in how she has been treated by the media and the public. She also described the union of Harry and Meghan, who wed last year, as a "true love story."

"You know, people don't choose who they fall in love with, they fall in love. She is an amazing young woman. She has an incredible life story. She has stood up for herself. She has made her own way in the world," Clinton said. "And then she falls in love and he falls in love with her and everybody should be celebrating that because it is a true love story. You can just look at them and see that."

Meghan, who has also met privately with former first lady Michelle Obama, publicly spoke about her difficulties with parts of the British press in the recent documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.

"The biggest thing that I know is that I never thought that this would be easy but I thought it would be fair," she said. "And that’s the part that’s really hard to reconcile but, I don’t know, just take each day as it comes."

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Erika Parfenova/iStock(PARIS) -- The debate over the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris continues.

Since the April fire that burnt down the roof of Paris' most beloved cathedral, causing the collapse of the 800 year-old spire, debates on its reconstruction have opposed France's conservatives and modernists.

Emotions ran high Wednesday when Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, who was chosen by President Emmanuel Macron to lead the restoration, asked the chief architect of the project, Philippe Villeneuve, to "shut his trap" during a session of the National Assembly Committee.

Villeneuve is in favor of building a spire identical to the one that was lost, which would also help keep to a tight deadline, he said, but Georgelin advocates for a consultation on the spire's fate.

Two days after the fire at Notre Dame, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced the organization of an international architectural contest for the spire's reconstruction. Several projects for modern spires have already been conceived and published by artists and architects from all over the world.

But for some, reconstructing Notre Dame is not up to competition but ought to be an enterprise faithful to the spire's original look. Villeneuve, who has been the chief architect of the cathedral's restoration since 2013, expressed this wish in the local newspaper Le Figaro.

Georgelin, who was in front of French lawmakers to discuss progress of the operations, asked the architect that he "let us advance in wisdom so that we can calmly make the best choice for Notre Dame, for Paris, for the world." The final decision should be made by "mid-2021," Georgelin announced.

The general expressed worries for the winter season, a "critical moment" for the scaffolding over Notre Dame's roof, which is still in danger of collapsing under a strong wind. A team of steeplejacks has been working on taking down the scaffolding piece by piece, which should be achieved by early summer 2020.

He also confirms to lawmakers the goal of five years set by Macron for the reconstruction, saying that "if there is no rigorous demonstration that it can be achieved in five years, there is however nothing to say that we cannot achieve it."

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nattanan726/iStock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- The first koala to be born at Australia’s Melbourne Zoo in more than eight years has just started to peek out from its mother's pouch -- and the footage captured by zookeepers is every bit as adorable as you’d expect.

In video released by the wildlife park, the as-yet-unnamed 5-month-old joey is seen tucked inside its mom’s pouch, occasionally peeping out to approach the camera.

Maddy Jamieson, Melbourne Zoo's Australian Bush Keeper, said that first-time koala mother Karri and her offspring are doing well at this "very exciting" time.

"It's our first joey in about eight years with mom Karri being the last joey that we had here," she said. "We've started to the baby pop its head out of the pouch, which is really, really cool. And we've started to see it get its little arms out and also have a little bit if a sniff of the gum."

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, has recently started taking an interest in the world outside of its mom’s pouch, where joeys often stay safely inside for the majority of their first year of life.

The marsupials have been listed as a vulnerable species in parts of Australia, and conservationists fear that hundreds have recently perished in wildfires that have razed prime habitat on the country’s east coast.

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Yarygin/iStock(LONDON) — Canadian billionaire Guy Laliberte, co-founder of global circus company Cirque du Soleil, is being investigated for growing cannabis on his private island in French Polynesia.

Laliberte, 60, turned himself in to police and was subsequently detained for questioning in the territory's capital of Papeete, located on the island of Tahiti.

Laliberte, who surrendered on Tuesday, was being held in custody as part of a drug trafficking investigation, a spokesperson for the French Polynesian national police force told ABC News.

Investigators recently detained a man on suspicion of drug possession and found photos on his cellphone purportedly showing Laliberte's marijuana plantation, according to the police spokesperson.

Laliberte's company, Lune Rouge, confirmed in a statement Wednesday that he is being investigated "for alleged complicity in cultivation, possession and use of cannabis."

The company described Laliberte as a "medical cannabis user" who grows the plant "for his personal use only" at his estate on the remote, tiny atoll of Nuketepipi in the South Pacific Ocean, which forms part of the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia.

The Center of Specialized Consultations in Alcoholics and Drug Addiction, a specialized addiction service in French Polynesia that's under the supervision of the health ministry, says on its website that growing cannabis, "even for personal consumption," is illegal.

The entrepreneur, who is best known for co-founding Cirque du Soleil in Quebec in 1984, appeared in court in Papeete on Wednesday and left the courthouse that afternoon "without any conditions," according to Lune Rouge. He has not been charged with drug trafficking.

"Mr. Guy Laliberte categorically denies and dissociates himself completely from any rumors implicating him in the sale or the traffic of controlled substances," his company said in a statement.

In a statement released through his company later Wednesday night, Laliberte said he "will continue to cooperate with the judicial authorities of French Polynesia." He added that the police officers have treated him "in a professional and respectful manner which is a bright spot in this misadventure."

"The disproportionate importance given to this matter, which is generally trivialized for someone in possession of several plants of cannabis for strictly personal use, greatly surprises me," Laliberte added.

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MBPROJEKT_Maciej_Bledowski/iStock(LONDON) — To the outside world, Princess Latifa of Dubai appeared to live a life of unbridled luxury. Whether it was skydiving over one of the world’s most scenic deserts or filming the exotic pets that ran free in her mother’s palace, she always appeared smiling, happy and carefree, at least on social media.

Yet in February 2018, her friend Tina Jauhiainen says she launched a daring escape from what activists call her “gilded cage” in Dubai with her help. Jauhiainen says they drove to Oman, met with Hervé Jaubert, a former French naval officer, and boarded a boat that set sail in the Indian Ocean.

The ship, however, was captured, Latifa was taken back to Dubai, and barring one photo-op, she has not appeared in public since her apparently failed escape attempt.

Activists campaigning for her release now fear for her life. They also say Latifa’s sister, Shamsa al Maktoum, attempted a similar escape in 2000, and has not been seen since.

But the women's whereabouts may become a mystery no longer: A controversial child custody battle involving one of the world’s richest and most secretive royal dynasties taking place this week, the activists say, could unlock the mystery behind Dubai’s missing princesses.

The court case

According to press accounts, Princess Haya -- Latifa's stepmother and the sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed -- has applied for a protective order to prevent one of her children from being forced into marriage, after fleeing the sheikhdom to London earlier this year.   Haya also reportedly applied for a non-molestation order for her two children who are with her in the U.K., and who cannot be named for legal reasons, at a court hearing in July. Under U.K. family law, a non-molestation order is designed to prevent individuals or their children from being abused. The circumstances surrounding this application are not yet reportable.

Sheikh Mohammed, who did not attend that court hearing, is reportedly seeking the return of his two children, who are minors and with Haya, to Dubai.

The sheikh and Princess Haya have hired two of the U.K.'s foremost divorce lawyers as their representatives in the case, which formally began earlier this week.

Sheikh Mohammed is being represented by Helen Ward, who represented Guy Ritchie in his divorce from Madonna, while Princess Haya's legal team is being led by Fiona Shackleton, who represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Princess Diana.

Yet human rights lawyers who say they are acting on behalf of Princess Latifa say they are hoping Princess Haya’s lawyers call Latifa and Shamsa as witnesses in the case, which, even if they did not appear, could shed new light on the whereabouts and well-being of the missing royals, the advocates say.

Life inside the palace

Marcus Essabri, Latifa and Shamsa’s cousin, knows first-hand what is was like to grow up inside one of the palaces of Dubai. Born female in Morocco and named Fatima, he spent much of his childhood in Paris. He now lives as a man in the United Kingdom.

Essabri travelled to the royal court at the age of 12 to live with his aunt, who married the Sheikh, in the mid-1980s.

He lived there for 2 1/2 years.

“Dubai was not as strict as it is now,” he told ABC News. “I was still allowed to go to a French school. Because I was young I had a little bit more freedom. I was able to go to the tennis club, to the hotels, but I always had to have somebody with me.”

He says he grew close to Shamsa and her older sister Maitha, who “spent a lot of time together as a family.”

“It was fun in some ways because we had everything that we wanted. But I wasn't happy because there was a lot of things I was not allowed to do also,” he said.

He says he was not allowed to bring friends to the palace for instance, and as he grew older he found life far more restrictive, and left for the U.K. He continued to visit, however, and although life was “very privileged,” visits from palace to palace meant life was “very much indoors.”

“There was hardly any freedom,” he said.

On Sept. 16, 1999, when Shamsa was 18, Essabri, who was still Fatima at the time, says he received a letter from Shamsa expressing her yearning to escape, but says he did not realize the situation was that dire.

Twenty years later, activists told Essabri what they believe happened to her, although the circumstances are under investigation.

On a visit to one of the Sheikh’s countryside estates in the U.K. in the year 2000 a person claiming to be Shamsa told British police that she fled the family and was allegedly recaptured by agents working for the Sheikh, according to The Guardian. The person reportedly claimed she had been forcefully returned to Dubai, and hasn’t been seen in public since.

And David Haigh and Essabri, who are part of the Free Latifa campaign, are hoping that his account could play a part in securing the release of his younger cousin, Latifa, who they believe has suffered a similar fate.

Princess Latifa

Tiina Jauhiainen, a Finnish national, says she grew close to Latifa after she was asked to give the princess capoeira classes in 2010.

“It was only after several months that I got to know her,” Jauhiainen told ABC News. “She's an extremely private person. She came across very reserved, shy. But it was only after we started skydiving together at the end of 2013 that I really became close friends with her. And then she opened up to me about her and her life.”

Latifa told Jauhiainen that she had tried to escape in 2000, but was recaptured and imprisoned, and tortured by the Dubai authorities during a 3 1/2 year period in prison, her friend told ABC News.

"It sounded like complete inhumane treatment. Now, when she told me about it, I started crying," she said.

Latifa herself addressed those claims in a video publicly released after her recapture in March 2018, saying she had been imprisoned for three years and tortured after the previous escape attempt.

When she was brought back home after the first attempt, Latifa had grown distrusting, quiet and insulated, and spent most of her time with animals, Jauhiainen said.

But in 2017, emboldened by their friendship, Jauhiainen says, Latifa approached her friend with a plan to escape. The initial plan, which was subsequently deemed too dangerous, involved Latifa scuba diving to reach an escape boat. Footage said to be of her practicing in an indoor swimming pool the Dubai palace was shared with ABC News.

But instead the pair enlisted the help of the former French military officer Jaubert and his boat, the Nostromo, and drove off through the Oman desert in late February 2018, Jauhiainen said. The selfie they took while driving away, the pair both smiling, stands as the last known picture of the princess not released by the Dubai government.

While sailing on the Indian Ocean, they were boarded by military wearing Indian uniforms, said Jauhiainen, who was along for the journey. David Haigh, the founder of the Free Latifa campaign, who had been in touch with the women throughout the escape attempt, says he received WhatsApp messages on March 4, 2018.

“Please help,” he says the last message read. “Please please there’s men outside I don’t know what’s happening.”

The pair hid together in the bathroom, before being dragged outside, Jauhiainen said.

“[Latifa] kept saying she was seeking political asylum,” she said. “There was machine guns pointing at us [from all] sides. And at that point, we were separated. I was placed on the floor. I found myself next to a pool of blood. So I was terrified.”

The women, along with Jaubert and three crew members, were taken back to the UAE and placed in jail. But after a few days, to her surprise, both Jauhiainen and Jaubert were released, Jauhiainen said.

A recording released on YouTube in the event of Latifa’s capture, in which she described the conditions she lived in and her reasons for escaping, brought international attention to the case, which Jauhiainen and Haigh say is why they believe she was released. The video has now been viewed over 4 million times.

The Dubai government has attempted to discredit these claims, suggesting that Haigh, who was imprisoned in Dubai on charges of alleged fraud and embezzlement while managing director of Leeds United soccer club was being funded by their regional rivals, Qatar. Haigh denies those allegations.  

Campaigning

Jauhiainen began campaigning for the princess’s release upon her return to Europe with Haigh, the founder of another organization: Detained International.

After her escape attempt, Latifa was not seen again until December 2018, when she appeared in the UAE in a photo op alongside Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland. Robinson was reportedly invited to see Latifa at that time by Princess Haya.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also released statements demanding answers from the Dubai government about Latifa’s whereabouts. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is investigating the allegations that the princess was forcibly recaptured.   Dubai’s royal court issued a statement that month saying that they had received reports that a ransom had been demanded for Latifa when she left the country in February, and that she was then "safe in Dubai.”

The Sheikh’s lawyers declined to comment on the record on the allegations raised in this article.

"If an English judge is deciding whether it's safe to send two young children that are currently in England to the Middle East, to their father, then his past behavior to his other children is clearly going to be very important," Haigh told ABC News.

"For the first time in the last 18 months, [Latifa's] case is going to be looked at by a proper court in a proper jurisdiction in an open hearing.”

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naruedom/iStock(CABARETE, Dominican Republic) -- An American teacher was found dead inside her apartment in the Dominican Republic following what appeared to be a robbery, local police said.

Patricia Ann Anton, 63, had her hands and feet tied when police found her in Cabarete, a town on the northern coast of the island nation, the National Police said in a statement on Tuesday.

An examination of her body determined that she died of strangulation, according to the statement.

Items including her phone, computer and television appeared to be stolen, police said.

Anton, whom police said was born in Italy but was an American citizen, was a teacher at 3 Mariposas Montessori, the school confirmed to ABC News.

"The children, parents, teachers and the community in general, are completely heart-broken over this loss. Patty was not only a colleague of mine, but she was also my mentor and one of my best friends," Sarah Ludwig-Ross, the founder and head of the school, told ABC News in a statement. "She was one of the most caring people I have ever met, always putting everyone else first."

Ludwig-Ross said Anton worked at 3 Mariposas Montessori for six years.

"She shared our belief that peace in the world can only come from getting close to and understanding people who are different from ourselves. ... Patty loved each and every one of our children just as if they were her own," Ludwig-Ross continued.

Anton also worked as the school's Montessori consultant.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told ABC News in a statement, "We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in November 2019 in the Dominican Republic."

"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family for their loss," the spokesperson said. "Out of respect for the family during this difficult time, we do not have additional information to provide."

When reached on Wednesday, local police declined to provide to ABC News any additional details on the case.

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clintspencer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A rare tornado struck the KwaZulu Natal Midlands in South Africa on Tuesday, killing two people, injuring 20 more and leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

The KwaZulu Natal Province, on the east coast of South Africa, has been battered by severe weather conditions and the South African Weather Service is warning that more torrential downpours are in store for the rest of the week.

The tornado touched down near the city of New Hanover, according to authorities.

"Two adults were unfortunately declared dead on the scene," paramedic Ross Campbell, from the medical response company ER24, told ABC News. "ER24 treated and transported nine patients for minor to moderate injuries to various hospitals in the area. Provincial medics treated and transported 11 others, bringing the total number of injuries on the scene to 20."

"An adult woman who had suffered serious injuries as a result of losing control of her vehicle during the storm was treated with Advanced Life Support interventions before being taken to Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg for further care," he added.

Campbell said many animals were reported to have been injured or killed in the area and power lines are also down.

"There is an extreme danger to life due to fast flowing rivers," the weather service said in a statement. "There is also a possibility of landslides and soil erosion along highly elevated areas which might lead to further disruption to traffic flow. Accumulated rainfall amounts for Thursday and Friday could exceed 100-150 mm [about 4 to 6 inches] in places over KwaZulu-Natal."

Tornadoes are not a regular occurrence in South Africa and the weather service said the strength of Tuesday night's twister has yet to be determined.

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NataliaCatalina/iStock(LONDON) -- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will spend this Christmas, their first as parents to son Archie, apart from the rest of the royal family.

The duke and duchess will instead spend the Christmas holiday with Meghan's mother, Doria Ragland, a spokesperson for the Sussexes confirmed Wednesday.

It is not yet known where the U.K.-based Sussexes will spend Christmas with Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles.

Harry and Meghan's decision to skip spending the holiday at Queen Elizabeth’s 20,000-acre Sandringham home in Norfolk, England, has the queen's support, according to the spokesperson.

The duke and duchess have spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, where Britain's royal family gathers for Christmas traditions that date back centuries.

Meghan was in 2017 the first fiancé in royal history to be invited by Queen Elizabeth to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the royal family at Sandringham. She and Harry stayed with Prince William and Kate at their Anmer Hall home in nearby Norfolk for the three-day-long celebration that is the royals' Christmas tradition.

Last year Meghan was pregnant with Archie when she spent her first Christmas as a member of the royal family at Sandringham.

William and Kate, the parents of Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, have sometimes in the past opted out of the royals' Christmas dinner so they can enjoy Christmas evening with Kate's family. In-laws are not typically invited to the royals' Christmas celebrations.

Harry and Meghan's decision to spend the holiday with Ragland is understandable -- she and Meghan are close and it will be Ragland's first Christmas as a grandmother -- but it is also likely to further flame the rumors of a divide between Harry and Meghan and other members of the royal family.

The duke and duchess were candid in a recent documentary about the struggles they face living their lives in the public eye.

Harry also specifically addressed in the documentary rumors of a rift between him and William, his older brother and only sibling.

"Part of this role and part of this job and this family being under the pressure that it's under, inevitably stuff happens," Harry said in Harry and Meghan: An African Journey. "But look we’re brothers. We’ll always be brothers."

"We’re certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and as I know he’ll always be there for me," Harry added. "We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy but I love him dearly."

"The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers it’s just as I said, you have good days, you have bad days," he said.

Since Harry and Meghan's wedding last year, the two brothers have split their royal households, divided their charitable foundations and lost their status as neighbors when Harry and Meghan moved from Kensington Palace to Frogmore Cottage.

Harry and William and Meghan and Kate, once known as the "royal fab four," made their first appearances together in recent weeks last weekend for Remembrance Sunday, a memorial day observed in the British Commonwealth to honor fallen military members of service.

Harry and Meghan are planning later this month to take some time off from royal duties and enjoy some family time, which will include visiting friends and family in the U.S.

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